An Alien's Mistaken Impressions of Humanity's Pockets

by Andrew Howe

2022

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Number of Reviews: 3
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Not Alien Enough, November 22, 2022
by JJ McC
Related reviews: IFComp 2022

Adapted from an IFCOMP22 Review

This was a small game, showcasing Alien scientists excavating modern human artifacts, and being mildly bewildered by them. It felt like a working prototype in a lot of ways.

It is small, 6 rooms not counting hallways? There are NPCs with limited and unvarying interactions. There are puzzles to solve, interacting with objects the player has (mostly) no issue recognizing, but amusingly befuddle the aliens. They are pretty linear and mostly obvious. It does incorporate state awareness, opening up options naturally as you play through. It is all pretty bare bones though, narratively and graphically.

Graphically, it's not very interesting - the font and color selection have no particular resonance. A lot of sentences and choices are all lower case which is a stylistic choice I assume, but serves no real purpose. Options are stacked vertically, but not ordered so that if an option is not yet available to you it looks like a stray blank line between other options. There is no consistent organization of choices screen to screen - sometimes it is a complete-or-not vertical list, sometimes it is integrated into the descriptions themselves. There are spelling errors, including in the title screen. It incorporates pictures, but incompletely. There is some light humor in the contrast between how the aliens describe the objects, and the academic photo of the actual object. This does bite the game where the object with the most obtuse description does not have a picture like the others. While I guessed at its use, I never did figure out what it was supposed to be.

The text descriptions also left money on the table, as it were. For one, the lab space, hallways and other rooms are described in suspiciously human terms. If there was an alienness to the setting, it would have much better reinforced their bafflement. As such, I kind of pictured Star Trek aliens - one prosthetic but otherwise human - when so much more was possible. There were technical glitches as well - the game did not seem to recognize when you were carrying something and let you pick it up repeatedly. Even your ultimate goal is not well signposted. While its never unclear what needs to be done next, the end screen came as mild “oh I guess that’s it then” surprise.

None of this was fatal, just unpolished. The graphical presentation was unpolished enough that it never really faded from my consciousness, and that feels Intrusive to me. The text could use some rework. The framework is there for a diverting game, just needs a bit more to start Sparking. The introductory text suggests this was a class assignment of some sort. Makes sense - as a time-constrained assignment its completeness is to its credit. The polish can come later.


Played: 10/27/22
Playtime: 20min, finished
Artistic/Technical rankings: Mechanical/Intrusive
Would Play Again? No, experience seems complete

Artistic scale: Bouncy, Mechanical, Sparks of Joy, Engaging, Transcendent
Technical scale: Unplayable, Intrusive, Notable (Bugginess), Mostly Seamless, Seamless